Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

Do currents shape global patterns of hybrid richness in coral reef fishes? (#57)

Isabelle Ng 1 2 3 , David R Bellwood 1 2 3 , Alexandre C Siqueira 1 2 3
  1. College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
  3. Research Hub for Coral Reef Ecosystem Functions, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Among the world’s most speciose vertebrate groups, coral reef fishes have been shown to commonly form hybrids, which tend to accumulate in specific geographic areas called hybrid-rich zones. Yet, the potential mechanisms underpinning these stand-out regions remain unclear. Here, we aimed to: 1) determine the taxonomic and global prevalence of hybridisation in coral reef fishes, and 2) investigate whether coral reef fish hybrids coincided with phylogenetic relatedness, biogeographic barriers, species richness, geographic isolation, endemism, and oceanic currents. Through a systematic literature review, we found 143 unique interspecific coral reef fish hybrids involving 204 species – which accounts for approximately 7% of all coral reef fish species, indicating that hybridisation is as common in the sea as it is on land. Characteristic coral reef fish families were not homogeneously represented in our dataset, with particularly colourful groups standing out. Mapping our dataset revealed that coral reef fish hybrids are found worldwide, though some regions (e.g., the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, South Kuroshio, Hawaii, and Eastern Philippines) are more hybrid-rich than others. Using a full-subsets modelling approach, we found that mean surface current velocity, phylogenetic relatedness (between hybrid parent species), and geographic isolation were the best predictors of hybrid richness in a given region. These results suggest that phylogenetic distance between coral reef fish species may serve as a pre-condition for hybridisation to occur, laying between introgression and reproductive incompatibility. We also propose a novel mechanism, with oceanic currents driving long-distance larval dispersal events, transporting stray species to geographically remote sinks to maintain hybrid-rich zones.